Individual And Society

Individual and Society – Social interactions, Status and role, Culture and Personality, Socialization

Man is a social animal. He lives in social groups in communities and in society. Human life and society almost go together. Man cannot live without society. Man is biologically and psychologically equipped to live in groups, in society. Society has become an essential condition for human life to arise and to continue.

The relationship between individual and society is ultimately one of the profound of all the problems of social philosophy. It is more philosophical rather than sociological because it involves the question of values.

Man depends on society. It is in the society that an individual is surrounded and encompassed by culture, a societal force. It is in the society again that he has to conform to the norms, occupy statuses and become members of groups.

The question of the relationship between the individual and the society is the starting point of many discussions. It is closely connected with the question of the relationship of man and society. There is two main theories regarding the relationship of man and society.

Social interactions

Social interaction is the process by which we act and react to those around us. In a nutshell, social interaction includes those acts people perform toward each other and the responses they give in return. Having a quick conversation with a friend seems relatively trivial.

Exchange is the most basic type of social interaction. Whenever people interact in an effort to receive a reward or a return for their actions, an exchange has taken place. Exchange is a social process whereby social behavior is exchanged for some type of reward for equal or greater value. The reward can be material (a paycheck at a job) or nonmaterial (a ‘thank you’ from your coworker). Exchange theorists argue that behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated; however, when the costs of an interaction outweigh the rewards, individuals are likely to end the relationship.

Cooperation is one of fundamental processes of social life. It is a form of social process in which two or more individuals or groups work together jointly to achieve common goals. Cooperation is the form of social interaction in which all participants benefit by attaining their goals.

Cooperation permeates all aspects of social organisation from the maintenance of personal friendships to the successful operation of international programmes. The struggle for exists forces the human beings not only to form groups but also to cooperate with each other.

Competition as a social process found in every field of human life. Wherever there is interaction among different individuals and groups there is an element of competition. Competition may be called as a struggle between two or more individuals, who are striving to get something which is relatively limited. Whenever the desired goods and services are in abundance to satisfy the needs of each and every individual, the competition may not exist. For instance, under normal circumstances there is no competition for air, water, sunshine etc., which are the free gifts of nature and available in abundance. But under abnormal circumstances When certain persons are in a desert or sea, there may be competition for getting scarce quantity of drinking water. Thus the underlying factor for competition is the scarcity of certain goods and services which are valued by groups and individuals.


Status and Roles

Most people associate status with the prestige of a person’s lifestyle, education, or vocation. According to sociologists, status describes the position a person occupies in a particular setting. We all occupy several statuses and play the roles that may be associated with them. A role is the set of norms, values, behaviors, and personality characteristics attached to a status. An individual may occupy the statuses of student, employee, and club president and play one or more roles with each one.

‘Status’ is the position that an individual is expected to hold in a group or a community; and the behaviour that we expect from the person holding such a person is his ‘role’. Society itself works out into an orderly division of labour by giving different persons different positions in it and assigning to each such position of behaviour that would generally be expected of such person.

Role is the behaviour expected of an individual who occupies a given social position or status. A role is a comprehensive pattern of behaviour that is socially recognized, providing a means of identifying and placing an individual in a society. It also serves as a strategy for coping with recurrent situations and dealing with the roles of others (e.g., parent–child roles). The term, borrowed from theatrical usage, emphasizes the distinction between the actor and the part. A role remains relatively stable even though different people occupy the position: any individual assigned the role of physician, like any actor in the role of Hamlet, is expected to behave in a particular way. An individual may have a unique style, but this is exhibited within the boundaries of the expected behaviour.

Culture and personality

Cultural psychologists have noted that some aspects of personality differ across cultural groups. For example, Americans and Asians have slightly different conceptions of self. American culture promotes a view of the self as independent. American children tend to describe themselves in terms of personal attributes, values, and achievements, and they learn to be self-reliant, to compete with others, and to value their uniqueness.

Many Asian cultures, such as those of Japan and China, promote a view of the self as interdependent. Children from these cultures tend to describe themselves in terms of which groups they belong to. They learn to rely on others, to be modest about achievements, and to fit into groups.

Researchers believe that culture influences aggressiveness in males. In places where there are plentiful resources and no serious threats to survival, such as Tahiti or Sudest Island near New Guinea, males are not socialized to be aggressive. Culture also influences altruism. Research shows that children tend to offer support or unselfish suggestions more frequently in cultures where they are expected to help with chores such as food preparation and caring for younger siblings.


Socialization,“is the process by which social beings establish wider and profounder relationships with one another, in which they become more bound up with, and moa perceptive of the personality of themselves and of others and build up the complex structure of nearer and wider association.”

It is through the process of socialization that the new born individual is moulded into a social being and men find their fulfillment within society. Man becomes what he is by socialization. Bogardus defines socialization as the “process of working together, of developing group responsibility, of being guided by the welfare needs of others.”

According to Green, “Socialization is the process by which the child acquires a cultural content, along with selfhood and personality”.According to Horton and Hunt, “Socialization is the process whereby one internalizes the norms of his groups, so that a distinct “self” emerges, unique to this individual.” H. T. Mazumdar defines socialization as “the process whereby original nature is transformed into human nature and the individual into person.”

Every man tries to adjust himself to the condition and environment predominantly determined by the society of which he is a member. If he fails to do so, he becomes a social deviant and is brought back into line by the efforts of the group of which he is a member. This process of adjustment may be termed socialization. It is the opposite of individualization. It is a process of the expansion of the self. It develops in him the community feeling.

Socialization may be differentiated from sociality and socialism. Sociality is a quality, socialization is a process. Sociality may mean the capacity to mix with others, to enter into relations with them easily and comfortably. Man is a socialized animal, though he may not possess very much sociality in the common sense of the term. In the process of socialization one comes to acquire the quality of sociality.

Socialism is a theory, not a quality or a process. It is a theory of future structure of society. So much vagueness surrounds this word ‘socialism’ that it is very difficult to define it in exact terms.

The social order is maintained largely by socialization. Unless the individuals behave in accordance with the norms of the group it is going to disintegrate. But how does the process of socialization begin to work? It is said that the working of the process starts long before the child is born.




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